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Why You’re Hungry All the Time

New research finds that despite eating the exact same meals, some people experience bigger dips in their blood sugar than others. This can lead to increased hunger and hundreds more calories consumed per day.

Ever wonder why some of us feel more hunger than others? Or why, despite following the exact same calorie-controlled diets, some struggle to lose weight more than others? New research from King’s College London and health science company ZOE has a potential answer. 

Researchers found that despite eating the exact same meals, the study’s participants did not have the exact same blood sugar reactions. Some people experience larger dips in their blood sugar several hours after eating than others. These people, referred to as “big dippers,” felt increased hunger, which resulted in hundreds more calories consumed over a day.

Blood sugar data and information on other health markers were collected and analyzed from 1,070 people. Over two weeks, participants ate standardized breakfasts — muffins containing the same number of calories but varying in macronutrients — and freely chosen meals. Throughout the study, participants wore stick-on continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) measuring and reporting their blood glucose. They also recorded their eating patterns, what they ate and their hunger and alertness levels on a phone app.

Most research on how blood sugar affects hunger levels analyze the blood sugar peak, which occurs right after eating. But this groundbreaking study follows blood sugar levels 2-4 hours after a meal. The scientists found that big dippers feel, on average, 9% hungrier than little dippers and waited roughly half an hour less than little dippers before their next meal. Big dippers also consumed approximately 312 more calories over the course of a day. This can add up to 20 lbs of weight gained over a year.

What does this mean for you?

According to researcher Dr. Sarah Berry of King’s College London, this study changes what we know about blood sugar and diet. 

“Our study shows that sugar dips are a better predictor of hunger and subsequent calorie intake than the initial blood sugar peak response after eating,” she said. “This changes how we think about the relationship between blood sugar levels and the food we eat.” Therefore, diet advice focused only on peaks may not control appetite as well as diet advice focused on dips.

Are you a big dipper or a little dipper?

It can be hard to determine if you’re a big dipper or not without the use of a CGM. This tool measures your glucose response in real time. However, Dr. Berry also has some more realistic and accessible advice for keeping an eye on blood sugar levels. “Pay attention to your own feelings of alertness, energy and hunger in the 2-4 hours after consuming a meal,” she said. “Modify your food to try and avoid any dips in alertness and energy and increases in hunger.”

She recommends simple strategies that result in a more controlled glucose response with less fluctuations. These include consuming fewer refined carbohydrates, consuming foods in their original matrix or structure (for example, whole apples instead of apple juice) and ensuring that meals contain a good balance of fiber, protein and healthy fats.

At Clean Eating, when we reach for a carb, it’s always a complex carb. We also make sure every single meal incorporates healthful plant-based nutrition, such as veggies and fruits. We never opt for low-fat, knowing that healthy fats are just as important as fiber and protein. Combine Dr. Berry’s insights with the following CE reads to embark on a successful and healthy weight loss journey: